Good Vibrations: A Children's Picture Book (LyricPop)

Image of Good Vibrations: A Children's Picture Book (LyricPop)
Release Date: 
June 2, 2020
Akashic Books
Reviewed by: 

One of the most important songs ever composed for rock music is the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations from 1966. Once the Beatles heard the song, they knew they had to ramp up their work. The song was created in the studio with lots of sound effects and symphonic instruments.

To take that iconic song and translate it to a picture book is not an easy task. A book offers the senses of sight, touch, and even smell, but sound? To reduce the song to just spoken lyrics is to take away layers and layers of the final product.

Anyone reading this book would do well to read along with the YouTube video of the Beach Boys singing Good Vibrations, maybe not every time but at least once to see what the illustrator is trying to capture through his art.

Joy, fun, and summer are just a few things. Excitement, parties, and camaraderie are a few more. The original song was a song about a girl that a boy has met. The book chooses to show a girl and her dog. Speech bubbles show that the dog opens up the story with “I love the colorful clothes she wears/ and the way the sunlight plays upon her hair.”

As the story continues, the dog is relegated to saying oom bop bop, and now it is unclear who is singing the words. Eventually there are birds, a polka dot horse, a little girl with a dropped ice cream cone, a cowboy, a thief, and the surfboard-carrying girl saying the back-up words.

An old lady sitting in a rocker on the porch, with cobwebs on her body because she has a flat tire on her bike, is dressed identically to the young girl. Is this the same person, years later, looking back at her life and wondering what happened to the fun times? When the girl straps her upside-down surfboard to the flat tire so that the two of them can ride down the sandy dunes to the beach, does that represent the song bringing the tired older woman back to life?

It’s a beach scene, of course, through and through, starting at home, and ending in the ocean, the whole gang on surfboards. Another page shows the girl balancing on top of her surfboard, on top of her big dog, on top of the polka dot horse. On the next page, the girl surfs on top of a beach ball and knocks over a bank robber and a policeman while a vegetable-selling pig looks aghast from his vegetable stand. The broccoli has faces, same for the carrots and onions.

When the girl reaches the open water, her dog is right beside her. He climbs onto her surf board, and they don’t catch any waves. The girl looks disappointed.

Then everyone shows up to join them. The girl smiles and frolics in the surf with all the characters of the book, including the older version of her (from the porch rocker) a space alien, a cactus plant with legs, the little girl with a new ice cream cone, the pig with his box of veggies, the thief in a rolling jail cell pushed by the policeman, and a hipster with a tambourine.

It’s zany fun with the last four double-page spreads showing how happy everyone is with the groovy beat. The last page is just the girl and dog, watching the sunset.

Reading the book is not the same as hearing the song, but the art does evoke the same emotions. The end papers are white waves on a muted teal sea with palm trees, beach cottages and fluffy clouds.

Good Vibrations is a good book for an aging Baby Boomer, a hipster, or a beach-going anyone.